Woodward’s and the UPC

            When we buy groceries today they are all scanned with the UPC (Universal Product Code). Many of us have seen this all their lives but others of us remember the days of price-marking of products and price entry to a cash register at the check-out.

            It was 1974, when the Grocery Product Manufacturer’s Association adopted the UPC code, designed by IBM, from many other submissions. The code consists of 4 parts: a leading zero for grocery products, 5 numeric digits for the manufacturer, 5 numeric digits for the manufacturer’s products, and a final digit for a check sum for validity. Since Woodwards had many private label products a 5 digit manufacturer’s code was assigned for them. In 1976 the first UPC labeled product was found on Woodward’s shelves. It was Green Giant Green Beans.

            Later a small committee was formed to investigate the new scanning register systems. NCR, the National Cash Register company, was selected and the first scanning installation in western Canada, was obtained for the opening of the Coquitlam store in 1979.

            By 1981 all the lower mainland stores were equipped with UPC scanning systems. These systems allowed central control over pricing as a price file was transmitted to each store and became effective with store control. This was especially useful for sales events where many prices would go down for a few days and then resume.